Plans outlined to drive modernisation and digitalisation of European ATM

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To effectively coordinate the modernisation of Europe’s air traffic management (ATM) system in the coming years leading airspace users, airports, air navigation service providers (ANSPs) and the EUROCONTROL Network Manager have formed a partnership and jointly released a set of high-level principles.

With ANSPs fully committed to the delivery of the Digital European Sky, Janusz Janiszewski, CEO PANSA commented on how this equal partnership represents the successful vehicle to making this a reality. “The leadership and inclusive approach for stakeholders in all phases of the ATM lifecycle is key to achieve the Single European Sky objectives.”

Thanks to the wealth of operational and institutional expertise possessed by the members engaged in the partnership, it is perfectly placed to provide decisive and clear added value to ATM stakeholders and the European aviation system.

The COVID-19 pandemic has massively impacted European ATM and the only way for European ATM to ‘build back better’ from the pandemic is by working together. The Partnership of operational stakeholders and the EUROCONTROL Network Manager is hugely important in this regard; an alliance of equals with unparalleled expertise and experience that can really get things done and deploy an effective, cost-efficient, scalable and environmentally sustainable European ATM infrastructure for the future.

Eamonn Brennan, Director General EUROCONTROL.

The principles outlined as a result of the collaboration include: Building and making use of an unprecedented pool of civil and military ATM expertise; Simplifying processes and expanding perspectives beyond EU boundaries to support stakeholders across the whole European network; Combining a performance-based and passenger-centric approach with the network perspective; Focusing resolutely on the environmental performance of ATM to support the European ‘Green Deal’; Delivering the highest level of buy-in from all involved stakeholders; Widening the scope to all major deployment and infrastructure initiatives requiring synchronisation at pan-European level; Establishing a closer link between the technology innovation cycle and ATM operations addressing the most urgent priorities and operational needs; Defragment deployment and coordinating investments through a reinforced programme management approach; And creating a ‘virtuous cycle’ to link and de-risk all phases of the ATM lifecycle through close cooperation with the SESAR Joint Undertaking.

Commenting on behalf of European airports, Olivier Jankovec, Director General of Airports Council International (ACI) Europe said: “Being fully involved and part of the deployment of SESAR is a must for ACI Europe. This is about pursuing our agenda for a closer integration between airport operations and Air Traffic Management, which is instrumental for ensuring a greener, more passenger-centric and more efficient air transport system.” He added that the industry trade body is, “delighted to be part of this new industry partnership together with EUROCONTROL Network Manager” and is looking forward to, “leveraging the SESAR programme to build back better.”

Editor’s comment: Delivering on decarbonisation goals

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Header image: Dallas Fort Worth Airport celebrates achieving the new Level 4+ Airport Carbon Accreditation


While COVID-19 has undoubtedly challenged the global aviation industry, it has also led to a reinvigorated drive for sustainability as stakeholders look to build back better.

This week more than 20 associations collectively representing Europe’s aviation ecosystem have announced a joint commitment to work with policy makers to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050. This latest pledge follows the release of the Aviation Round Table Report on Monday 16 November, which details how aviation can  recover sustainably and more resiliently from the coronavirus pandemic, while supporting the European Union’s Green Deal objectives.

Pact for sustainable aviation

EU leaders have also been urged to join and actively support an EU Pact for Sustainable Aviation by the end of 2021. In order to further reduce aviation’s environmental footprint and achieve decarbonisation, the pact calls for various steps to be adopted, including: An EU legislative framework to promote the uptake, production and deployment of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF); Funding and investment to accelerate low-carbon aircraft innovations; Increased public co-funding rates for Civil Aviation Research & Innovation through EU recovery mechanisms; And the revision of the Single European Sky and continuation of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme/CORSIA.

In support of the pact, Olivier Jankovec, Airport Council International (ACI) Europe’s Director General, said: “The European aviation sector believes that its recovery is fully compatible with, and should be accompanied by, broader efforts to reduce its environmental footprint, provided the right policies are in place.”

New carbon accreditation levels

In line with the airport industry’s continued progress towards decarbonisation, Jankovec revealed two new Airport Carbon Accreditation levels during the airport trade body’s annual congress, which was held on Tuesday 17 November. The carbon accreditation programme had previously gone up to Level 3+ Neutrality, but Level 4 Transformation and Level 4+ Transition go beyond that, requiring airports to align their management strategies and plans with the ambition of the Paris Agreement, according to which global warming should be limited to below 2⁰C  and ideally 1.5⁰C. Carbon footprints will also be extended under the new levels, so additional emission sources have to be included, notably covering all significant operational emissions from third parties, including airlines. Requirements related to stakeholder engagement will also be tightened with effective partnerships oriented towards delivering emissions reductions coming to the fore.

“During the worst of the pandemic, airports around the world continued to achieve accreditation at all levels of the programme,” said Jankovec. “The introduction of these two further levels sets the bar yet higher. They bring the programme in line with the latest scientific and policy developments of recent years, and quite rightly reflect enhanced public expectations of the societal and environmental role we play,” he concluded.

With two airports having already achieved Level 4+ accreditation – Dallas Fort Worth in the US (pictured) and Indira Gandhi International Airport in India – it’s great to see the wheels are already in motion for airports to continue playing their part in delivering a zero-carbon future.

Have a great weekend,

Chloë Greenbank,

Editor, Regional Gateway

Torino Airport takes the win at ACI Europe Best Airport awards

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Torino Airport

Torino Airport in Italy has cause for celebration having been named the Best Airport in the Under 5 million passengers category at Airports Council International (ACI) Europe’s airport awards. The ceremony took place during the association’s annual congress and assembly, which was live streamed from the Skyhall at Brussels Airport on Tuesday 17 November.

Torino was recognised for its swift response to the COVID-19 pandemic through the implementation of health and safety protocols in collaboration with local authorities to maintain operational continuity. In particular, the airport was praised for the rapid introduction of body temperature screening, testing of passengers coming from areas severely affected by COVID-19 and the use of innovative technologies to ensure a touchless and safe passenger experience.

Judges also highlighted the airport’s commitment to staff training and its insurance policy for employees affected by COVID-19, as well as its efforts to support the local community and help those in need.

Cork Airport (which has previously won the award) was highly commended in the under 5 million passenger category.

Prioritising passenger concerns

In the 5-10 million passenger category, Malta International Airport took the win. The airport has introduced a raft of measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of passengers and staff. These include the extensive use of partition walls and auto alerts as well as a dedicated Airport Care Team to address passengers who are not socially distancing. Judges also highlighted Malta’s online engagement with passengers and the incorporation of passenger feedback, which has enabled health and safety measures to be prioritised around passenger concerns. The airport’s strong focus on staff wellbeing was noteworthy, including the work from home policy, regular, temperature checks at the workplace, free health insurance and an annual wellbeing allowance. Malta Airport was also the winner of the HR Excellence award.

Larnaka Airport in Cyprus was highly commended in this category.

Engaging communications

In the 10-25 million passenger category, Hamburg Airport in Germany took the win  – with its dedicated podcasts credited with being a smart and engaging way to communicate with staff during remote working. The airport was also selected for its continued work towards aviation decarbonisation and its focus on passenger needs with the emphasis on promoting a contactless and safe passenger experience.

Lyon Saint-Exupéry Airport in France was highly commended in this category.

‘Biometrics on the move’ in Lisbon

Lisbon Airport in Portugal was named the 25-40 million passenger category winner with judges noting that the airport excelled in ensuring a contactless and safe passenger passenger experience, namely with the roll-out of the ‘Biometrics on the move’ project and the introduction of advanced UV disinfection technology.

Sabiha Gökçen International Airport in Turkey was highly commended in this category.

Leading the way for primary hubs

Meanwhile Rome Fiumicino Airport – which introduced a drive-in antigen test centre earlier this year and a ‘smart helmet’ to monitor passengers’ body temperature via thermal radiation – took the win for the ‘over 40 million passenger category’. Istanbul Airport was highly commended in this category and took the win for the Digital transformation award.

Eco-innovation, accessible airport and business partner recognition

Budapest Airport was given the Eco-innovation award and commended for its strong focus on enhancing e-mobility with partner companies and travelling public/ employees, leading to emissions reductions both landside and airside.

This year’s Accessible Airport award was given to Copenhagen Airport in Denmark. Judges were impressed with the efforts made by the airport’s high-quality facilities and services, including an interactive PRM-friendly wayfinder, e-gates and check-in desks for PRMs. Meanwhile Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport in Spain was highly commended for this category.

Finally the World Business Partner Recognition award was given to To70, which has provided significant input to ACI Europe’s ‘Off the Ground’ recovery plan.

Airports propose plan for EU and government support

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On behalf of airports across Europe, the industry trade body Airports Council International (ACI) Europe has called on the European Commission to urgently adopt an EU Recovery Framework for Aviation and for governments to provide the requisite funding to support airports – and the recovery of air connectivity.

With second lockdowns and travel restrictions now in place in countries across Europe the financial situation for airports is only expected to worsen in the coming weeks.

And while sustained air freight traffic remains a bright financial spot for airlines, its impact on airports is marginal, as the bulk of their revenues is linked to and dependent upon passenger traffic. In addition, airports, unlike airlines, do not get advance revenues as they are only paid after the services is provided and their facilities used. And while airlines have benefitted from more than €31.8 billion in financial aid from European Governments, the support extended to airports has been limited to €840 million.

“Large scale job losses and insolvency are no longer worst case projections for Europe’s airports,” said Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe’s Director General. “We’re already looking down the barrel of the gun, and the crisis continues to deepen. The situation requires urgent and decisive action with an ad hoc Recovery Framework for Aviation at EU level enabling support beyond 2021 and governments providing financial support accordingly. That should include as a priority extending supportive employment schemes for all staff working at airports, compensating airports for lost revenues and supporting the rebuilding of air connectivity up to 2023.”

The European Commission has extended its Temporary Framework enabling EU States to support the companies affected by the pandemic until June 2021. However, ACI Europe argues this is insufficient to address the devastating and lasting impact of COVID-19 on aviation and on airports in particular. ACI Europe is requesting that this Temporary Framework should be extended to the end of 2021 and must be supplemented by a Recovery Framework for Aviation.

The latter should include compensation for damages due to COVID-19 remaining available for airports as long as travel restrictions by Member States are prevent the recovery of air traffic. There also needs to be a common framework allowing States to establish Air Connectivity Restart Schemes. These targeted and time limited schemes would allow support for the resumption of air routes suspended due to the pandemic until 2023 through a degressive per passenger contribution – on a non-discriminatory basis.

In addition Emergency Public Service Obligation orders should remain in place until the end of 2021 and immediate and longer-term adjustments to the 2014 Aviation State aid guidelines should be made to extend the possibility for airports to receive both operating and investment aid – with a particular focus on the financing of climate action and sustainability projects.

Editor’s comment: Can all runways lead to recovery?

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The week is closing out with grim findings from Airports Council International (ACI) Europe that unless passenger traffic starts to recover by the end of this year some 200 European airports will face insolvency in the coming months. Although no airports have been named, it is estimated that 193 out of Europe’s 740 commercial airports could go bust due to the collapse in air travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Eight months into the crisis and all of Europe’s airports are burning through cash to remain open, with revenues far from covering the costs of operations, let alone capital costs,” said Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe’s Director General.

Data published by the European airports trade body shows a year-on-year decrease of 73% in passenger traffic at Europe’s airports in September. As of mid-October, passenger traffic stood at 75% down from the same period last year, reaching an 80% decrease for airports in the EU/ EEA/ Switzerland/ UK footprint – a clear downward trajectory. Furthermore, the loss of an additional 172.5 million passengers in September has brought the total volume of lost passengers since January of this year to 1.29 billion.

While larger European and primary hubs are certainly not immune from critical financial risk, having cut costs to the bone and turned to the financial markets to shore up balance sheets and build emergency war chests, ACI Europe reports that it’s mainly regional hubs that will face insolvency. Of course, it’s not just the airports and operators that will suffer either. There will also be wide-reaching consequences for local employment, economies and connectivity in those communities served by the respective airports facing insolvency.

To avert rising geographic inequality, government support in terms of financial rescue packages is crucial, as is the urgent need to implement uniform testing protocols.

With Europe’s winter season now upon us, the permanence of severe restrictions to cross-border travel has considerably worsened the traffic outlook. Many airlines have slashed their capacity plans for the remainder of the year and into 2021.

“In the midst of a second wave, ensuring safe air travel continues to be our primary concern,” added Jankovec. “It’s crucial that we reduce the risks of importation and dissemination as much as possible. But surely we can do a much better job of reducing those risks by testing air passengers rather than with quarantines that cannot be enforced.”

ACI’s message is a stark warning that not all airports will recover and it will cause unease across Europe’s airport community. But, let’s hope this is the wake-up call governments need to end the current imposition of quarantines and implement harmonised testing protocols across the board and without any further delay.

And let’s hope that next week brings more positive news!

Best wishes,

Chloë Greenbank

Editor, Regional Gateway

Duty and tax free shopping on arrival in EU airports key to recovery

By Airports, Non-aeronauticalNo Comments

A report commissioned by the European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC) has found that there are potentially huge economic benefits to be achieved through the introduction of arrivals duty and tax free shopping at EU airports. Alongside Airports Council International (ACI) Europe, ETRC is calling on the European Union to review current legislation to allow passengers travelling from third countries to buy duty and tax free on arrival in EU airports.

“The introduction of EU arrivals duty and tax free shopping presents us with a great opportunity to renew the outdated approach to arrivals shopping in the EU,” offered ETRC President, Nigel Keal alluding to the fact that arrivals duty and tax free shops are commonplace in airports around the world including all European Economic Areas (EEA) such as Norway and Switzerland. But under current EU legislation, only those passengers ‘leaving’ the EU are allowed to purchase duty and tax free sales. Allowing such sales for arriving passengers travelling from third countries to the EU will help restore competition for EU airports with their international counterparts, by creating much-needed revenue and supporting employment at EU airports.

“As allowances will remain the same, this proposal will simply give passengers another opportunity to avail of their duty and tax free allowance and to choose to support their local airport rather than buy abroad,” Keal continued.

Findings in the report reveal that based on 2019 traffic figures, duty and tax free arrival shops would have generated around €4.3 billion in Gross Value Added (GVA), supported 41,500 jobs and generated €1.6 billion in tax revenues. The report also estimates that arrivals duty and tax free sales could generate up to 30% of total travel retail sales at EU airports.

Recognising the impact of COIVD-19 on air traffic, the report draws the conclusion of an initial impact per million passengers of around €1.3 billion in GVA, 12,100 jobs and €475 million in tax revenues, rising to €3.5 billion in GVA, 33,700 jobs and €1.3 billion in tax revenues. What’s more, with the UK’s transition period for Brexit coming to an end this year, the numbers of non-EU passengers is expected to increase substantially in the coming years, meaning that many smaller airports would benefit from duty free purchases made on arrival.

“Given the unique role that airports play as economic gateways, it is imperative that all steps are taken to keep them open through these difficult times. EU airports are currently losing hundreds of millions of euros of potential commercial income to their non-EU counterparts each year. Arrivals duty and tax free shopping will allow retail sales to be displaced from third countries back to the EU airport of arrival,” concluded ACI Director General, Olivier Jankovec.


Allowing duty and tax free

Airports brand European Council’s cross-border travel restrictions a failure

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Following the adoption on Tuesday 13 October by European Affairs Ministers of a Council Recommendation on travel restrictions, airports and airlines across the aviation sector have branded it a failure and issued a stark warning of the potential consequences.

While the Council recommendation sets out guidance to member states on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement it fails to encourage a restart of travel through effective coordination and proportionate, predictable and non-discriminatory measures, according to aviation bodies Airports Council International (ACI) Europe, Airlines for Europe (A4E) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Stakeholders across Europe’s aviation industry are pushing for a common pre-departure COVID-19 testing framework to replace quarantines for passengers travelling from high risk areas, in order to re-establish freedom of movement in Europe. However, the Council Recommendation does not propose to replace quarantines with testing, effectively meaning borders remain closed. It also fails to harmonise the rules applicable for cross-border and domestic travel and ignores the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s opinion that travel restrictions – and in particular quarantines – are of ‘questionable effectiveness’ when community transmission is on-going, which is currently the case across much of Europe.

ACI Europe says that expectations for an effective solution now rest with the European Commission, which has charged the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and ECDC with the development of an EU Testing Protocol for Travel.

Latest traffic data shows how recovery needs to accelerate before airports run out of money

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Airports Council International (ACI) Europe’s latest traffic report reveals the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Europe’s airports. Passenger traffic decreased by -64.2% during the first half of the year, almost coming to a complete standstill in Q2 with a drop of -96.4% compared to the same period in 2019.

The report also shows that in the first half of the year non-EU airports were slightly less impacted (-59.8% compared to -65.6% for their EU counterparts) thanks to domestic traffic. This mostly reflected less stringent lockdowns in several non-EU countries and domestic air services being less affected than international ones.

During June, Moscow-Domodedovo became the busiest European airport with 716,800 passengers. London Heathrow, which normally holds the top spot, came down to the 11th position, handling just over 350,700 passengers compared to 7.24 million in June last year.

Disruptions in rankings were widespread across the airport league – a reflection of the lack of alignment between European States in lifting travel restrictions. UK airports also significantly lagged behind their peers in June due to the overly restrictive and untargeted travel restrictions enacted by the British Government. London Gatwick dropped from the 10th position last year to the 92nd position; Manchester from the 18th to the 73rd position; London Stansted from the 24th position to the 59th position; Birmingham from the 48th position to the 125th; and Newcastle from 93rd to the 170th.

Followign the tentative coordination of the lifting of travel restrictions at EU level as of mid-June, the traffic recovery has been slower than expected. As a result, passenger traffic across the European airport network still declined by -78% in July compared to the same month last year. This translated into an additional 208 million passengers lost, bringing the total passenger loss since the start of the year at 969 million.

The past two weeks have seen further deceleration in the pace of recovery. This is due to several states re-imposing travel restrictions and in particular the UK’s abrupt decision to require passengers returning from Spain to quarantine.

Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe’s Director General commented: “The recovery is far too slow-paced and uncertain. Despite desperate efforts to trim down their costs Europe’s airports are burning cash at the height of the summer. Revenues are weak because of the combination of low volumes with rebates and incentives to airlines to attract and incentivise air traffic.” He also warned that, “Considering the seasonality of demand, this does not bode well for the coming months. If the recovery does not accelerate significantly, many airports will simply run out of money.”

Airports call for data-driven approach to slot waivers

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In response to the International Air Transportation Association’s (IATA’s) call to extend the current waiver from the 80-20 use-it-or-lose-it rule for airports slots into the winter season, airports across Europe have warned that this additional flexibility will come at a high cost to airports.

Airlines claim they need the extension on the airport slot waiver to allow for additional operational flexibility to plan their schedules as they recover from the coronavirus crisis. However, Airports Council International (ACI) Europe has highlighted that this will leave airports with operational costs and no revenues to cover them. If the slot rule is extended it will allow airlines to declare full schedules and hold on to the requested slots, but it will also enable them to cancel flights close to their date of operation. There is a danger here that airlines use the airport slot allocation system and the flexibility afforded by the waiver to ensure airport slots cannot be reallocated and keep competition at bay.

“There is no need to rush with a decision on this just now. The winter season is still more than 4 months away, with considerable uncertainty about the pace and shape of the recovery in demand for air transport,” said
Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe. “We urge the European Commission to follow a data-driven and evidenced-based approach to assess whether extending the waiver beyond the end of October will be the most appropriate measure to support the restoration of air connectivity. This means it will also need to consider the impact on consumers and communities – as well as the economic viability of the entire air transport
eco-system, including airports.”

The association recalls that the current waiver requires the decision on any extension to be based on EUROCONTROL’s traffic projections and scientific data on whether the persistent downturn in air traffic is caused by the pandemic.

Furthermore, ACI Europe also notes that a number of airports are reporting that airlines plan to operate full programmes for the winter season – with their request for slots even exceeding those made last year for the same period.

For the benefit of all stakeholders ACI Europe is calling upon the European Commission and EU States to abide by several principles when considering airport slot waivers. These include: A data-driven and evidence-based approach; strict conditions applied to waivers to avoid unintended impacts on the competitive landscape; slots allocated in response to new requests are not eligible to qualify for the waiver; and slots must not be covered by waivers when an airline publicly announces that it will cease or reduce services at an airport.

Airports mark lifting of intra-EU travel restrictions

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Airports Council International (ACI) Europe has marked the lifting of travel restrictions between most of its member states by publishing two landmark documents.: 10 Commitments from the airport industry to Passengers, Communities and Authorities, and 10 Recommendations to National Authorities and the European Institutions.

The documents have been published in collaboration with the national airport associations of France (UAF&FA), Germany (ADV), Italy (Assaeroporti), Romania (RAA) and the UK (AOA).

The first document outlining the 10 commitments to passengers, communities and authorities shows the priority placed by Europe’s airports on delivering the safe, reliable and sustainable passenger experience. According to ACI Europe the document reiterates the fact that Europe’s airports are amongst the safest, cleanest and most controlled public spaces as we strive to return to normality.

Additionallly, the industry’s commitments embrace its continued climate action towards the target of Net Zero CO2 emissions at the latest by 2050 for operations under its control.

Welcoming ACI Europe’s commitments, the European Commissioner for Transport Mrs Adina Vălean said: “Every journey starts with a first step and every journey by aircraft starts at the airport. I welcome the commitments made by the European airport industry on confidently and safely restoring air connectivity. They are fully in line with our guidelines and specifications, showing responsibility and care both for passengers and for staff. This is the new normal as we learn to live and travel with the virus.”

Meanwhile the 10 recommendations for national authorities and European institutions underline airports’ critical role in the economic development as well as the connectivity of the regions and communities they serve. ACI Europe is calling on policymakers to develop a clear plan to re-build air connectivity and re-invigorate tourism, championing collaboration at national and European levels and ensuring that no stakeholder is excluded from supporting measures.

“Europe’s airports are economic enablers with safety running through their very DNA,” said Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe’s Director General. “Our 10 commitments and 10 recommendations are concrete, confident and unequivocal… We clearly ask of European policymakers and national and international level that they match our commitments with proportionate and harmonised actions. The European Commissions’s call to member states to lift remaining intra-EU restrictions as of today, and with the wider world by the end of this month, is a welcome signal with which we stand fully aligned. Let’s reconnect and fly again,” he concluded.

Pictured: Cork Airport and Lodz Airport